While strides have been made to see more women in STEM careers in recent years, there still remains a significant gap between men and women working in engineering. With just 9% of the engineering workforce being female, and the UK having the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, it’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure women are getting into this line of work.
Education starts early
One of the best ways to encourage women to consider engineering as a profession is to increase the education surrounding it while they’re still at school. Girls currently make up just 42% of A level students in STEM subjects, according to the Royal Academy of Engineering, and these numbers dwindle as you look further into university and higher education.
Girls need to be encouraged to develop their spatial skills from a young age, and women-inclusive focus groups, clubs, workshops and other communities should be established to help women thrive in engineering. The London Engineering Project is one example of this, set up to encourage girls, adult learners, students with no history of higher education and black and ethnic minority students to not only go into higher education after school, but also to consider engineering as a career.
Highlight role models
Engineering role models are more common in society than you may think – and they don’t just have to be famous examples throughout history. While people like Edith Clarke (MIT’s first female electrical engineering graduate degree-holder) and Emily Warren Roebling (who helped to complete the Brooklyn Bridge) should be celebrated as pioneering engineers, there are more role models among us. Use your company blog to highlight successful female engineering stories within your organisation, as Atkins have done, and invite local lecturers and engineering professionals to come and speak to your students or staff to help shine a light on women working in the profession.
Perceptions of engineering as a very practical, technical and often dirty vocation remain, yet there’s actually a very diverse scope for career paths within the industry that many women may not know about. Engineering is full of intellectual challenges that require innovation and creativity, with real-world problems addressed and solved every day. By focusing on this element of engineering, we may go some way to inspiring more women to enter the field.